9 Replies Latest reply on Dec 5, 2014 8:28 AM by thebridge

    Situations to watch out for as a developer: cautionary tales


      Ok all, I know we've all run into this, at some point along the path of our FileMaker journeys: You've built up your chops, learned the ins & outs of FM best practices and have a lot of time under the hood of FileMaker, so you're ready to freelance, join a firm, etc. Basically, take it to the next level of being a developer and start earning some income from those tireless nights of study for certification and (seemingly) endless script memorization.


      Then it happens...you get burned by a client/project/opportunity, the scope of project changes, someone doesn't feel the need to pay you for services rendered. I'm pretty sure it's happened to most of us along the way. I figured a thread that could serve a dual role, was in short order...i.e., cautionary tales and a way to vent out a little bit because it is a frustrating experience.


      Without naming names (PM me if you want the name because the job posting is still active and shouldn't be), here's mine...


      Recently, there was a job posting on the Career Net page in search of a developer for a really small company based on a single, somewhat basic, CRM solution. I recently started freelancing, about seven/eight months ago, and thought it might be a good idea to get in bed with a company to offset the feast or famine that freelancing can sometimes be. This individual was looking for a mid-level developer and seemed to be fairly legit. We conversed, shared samples, checked references and agreed on a salary that was mutually beneficial and had room for growth. I really didn't read too much into the interview other than both religion and politics got brought up, which should've been a massive red flag.


      The very next day, this person contacts me and has some goofy, off-the-wall, Google-like quiz for me to complete (mind you, this is after samples have been shared and a figure has been agreed upon). Reluctantly, I agree to this quiz and we commence on a remote desktop session where I walk through what I would do, for example, to parse a lot of text taken from the body of an email. Well, it isn't what he would do....nevermind there are usually 3-4 ways minimum to accomplish a specific task in FileMaker. At this, he begins to backslide on the figure agreed upon....again, a red flag popped up and I, in my enthusiasm, ignored it.


      Long story short, I spent a little over a day working with this individual before I realized that, in a likelihood, I probably wouldn't get paid at all. So, I cut it loose and we agreed that it wasn't a good fit. Flash forward a few weeks and I send him an invoice for the time I did spend that were billable hours and this is the exact response that I received:



      "You wasted 3 + hours of my time which I bill at $125 an hour which would greatly offset your bill. Further more. I called and IM'd you at 2:00 the first day you did not respond until 5. If you were Doing the work you claim, you would have been available for my calls or at least promptly returned them ( not 3 hours later ). In addition I added up all the video's I have and the total time for them is 2.5 hours. So that tells me you were not watching the video’s I asked you to watch since it supposedly took you all after noon and 2 hours the next morning to get through them before telling me you really didn’t want the job you said you did. Finally you did not provide me any goods or services to pay you for. You were not an hourly employee and this is not Burger King. You were a subcontractor, contracted to provide me goods and services for which you would be paid."


      Notice any contradictions, folks?


      The lesson to be learned is this:


      Go with your gut. Your time is more valuable than money and if it doesn't feel right, walk away.


      It's very easy to lose perspective as a new developer because the client holds all the cards. In actuality, they don't. Like any relationship, it's a 50/50 parternship and should be treated as such. If the client, in this case, another developer, undervalues what you offer, walk away from the situation. If they didn't need help, they wouldn't advertise for it.


      Please feel free to share your stories so maybe we can assemble a 'must read' thread.



        • 1. Re: Situations to watch out for as a developer: cautionary tales

          My recommendation would be to go through an arbitrator, like elance.com, where at least you've got some escrow protection. Or only work in prepaid hours.


          Yeah, we've all had similar stories to this though. FileMaker is one of the worst platforms for scope creep since it's so "easy" to make updates without compiling/redeploying/refreshing/repository/etc...

          • 2. Re: Situations to watch out for as a developer: cautionary tales

            Absolutely!  oDesk is fairly good as well and worth the 10% that they take off the top.


            This situation was irritating to me primarily because the original point of contact was filemaker.com, so I, naively, didn't question the legitimacy of the solution/developer.

            • 3. Re: Situations to watch out for as a developer: cautionary tales

              We've all gone through this, specially at the beginning of our careers.


              There are some simple rules I follow no matter what:


              1. Never give a ballpark quote, never, ever. Have a price list if possible.
              2. If the customer tells you that your price is way too high (and you know that you've calculated a fair price), then that's not your customer, or in other words, he's not a customer for you. There are all kind of customers for all kind of developers. You just have to find your type of customer, your target market.
              3. Before start coding, prepare (and charge for it) a project where you set all the specifications for your job. Conduct inverviews with users, listen, listen, listen a lot to them, not the customer. Learn as much as you can about the process and prepare a project that includes mock-ups, workflows and so on. Do not code yet. In this project you'll tell him the estimated cost for what he wants.
              4. If your customer agrees on the price, you can offer him to deduct the cost of the previous project.
              5. To any attempt of feature creep you'll have a single answer: OK, I'll send you a quote for that. In other words, you'll charge for everything not included in the project.


              Regarding the customer honesty, if your gut tells you that your customer is a tricky/non paying guy, just make sure he'll pay you. The trickier he is the harder you are.


              Along the road I've found a bunch of those tricky guys and in some cases I've earned their respect (basically by showing my teeth, so to speak). In other cases I've been fooled by them. Your mileage may vary.


              Just my 2¢ of mexican pesos.





              • 4. Re: Situations to watch out for as a developer: cautionary tales

                The best method for dealing with difficult clients is not to have any.  


                In other words, be selective. Work with good people and don't be afraid to walk away if the client is a jerk. (And some are.)

                • 5. Re: Situations to watch out for as a developer: cautionary tales

                  I love that definition: short and simple, as any FileMaker solution should be.


                  Thank you Mike.

                  • 6. Re: Situations to watch out for as a developer: cautionary tales

                    ibrahim_bittar wrote:


                    1. Never give a ballpark quote, never, ever. Have a price list if possible.


                    Good list, Ibrahim.


                    Personally I have no problem with #1, it seems to work well for me and it helps weed out the clients that do not have budget.

                    • 7. Re: Situations to watch out for as a developer: cautionary tales

                      Good topic, c0nsilience!


                      There's an awful lot to being a successful developer that has nothing to do with developing code. I work with every client on even footing. The client owns his company. I own mine. The client can fire me. I can fire the client. A meeting with a prospective client is often seen as a chance for the prospect to interview me. But I'm most certainly interviewing them.


                      My best and simplest advice is that first impressions are usually right. Every bad client I've ever had exhibited red flags out of the gate. And my best clients looked like gold at our first meeting. There are exceptions to this, but 20 years of experience has taught me to trust my first impression.



                      • 9. Re: Situations to watch out for as a developer: cautionary tales

                        I have no problem with numero uno either and it is my numero uno way of cutting to the chase with a prospect.


                        Presentation and understanding is everything when conveying "ballpark" quotes. The end result is that it lets you know if THIER budget is within the  " ball park"! Most are not.



                        It behooves us to lessen time spent with these type... as in....  time saved is money earned .


                        After framing the "ball park" as "nothing more a genereralized figure based on a generalised/brief project description", you should be in a good place should the prospect decide to take it to the next level.




                        rob bloomfield